How NOT to Pitch Your Book Proposal

In 30 years of book publishing I have heard it all. In the spring of 1987, I received a book proposal from a man who was predicting that the Rapture would happen before November (the 40-year anniversary of the founding of Israel).

Photo courtesy of ©, Image #5487211

Photo courtesy of ©

He said, “Since I will be gone once this happens, I wish to assign all my royalties to my brother-in-law who is not a Christian.” I kid you not.

I replied, “Being Christians ourselves and being convinced by your proposal, we don’t believe we will be around to publish your book!” I never heard from him again.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the only crazy stuff I’ve heard. In fact, I probably get at least one proposal a month that makes me shake my head in disbelief.

Therefore, let me save your proposal from a one-way trip to the trash can. If you are trying to get a publisher (or an agent) to take your proposal seriously, there are at least ten things you should never say:

  1. God told me to write this book.
  2. God told me to contact you.
  3. My book is destined to be a bestseller.
  4. My book is perfect for Oprah.
  5. My book is very similar to (insert the name of the latest mega-bestseller).
  6. There is nothing like my book in the marketplace.
  7. This is a multi-million dollar opportunity. I hope you are smart enough to see it.
  8. I will only share my book idea with you after you sign a confidentiality agreement.
  9. I don’t care about the money; I just want to help people.
  10. You probably won’t publish my book, because most of what you publish is fluff.

If you want to write a good query letter, start by reading The Writers Digest Guide To Query Letters. Then just apply a little common sense.

Question: If you are an agent or an editor, what is the craziest pitch you have ever heard?

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